Playground equipment needs to be manufactured so that it is cognizant of the specific and unique needs of a playground site. It is important that all of the elements present can withstand constant use and weather conditions without presenting hazards to children. Every material needs consistent inspection in order to ensure playground safety. All equipment needs to be made from a material that has been manufactured to meet a certain standard of durability. In addition to being informed about the longevity of their product, manufacturers should be informed about the applicable ASTM ratings and regulations.
Playgrounds have a lot of components that all come with pieces of hardware designed to keep the elements in place and stabilize them. These smaller elements need to be safe and durable in addition to the actual play structures themselves. Hardware can pose a hazard to children if they can remove it, therefore none of the hardware on the playground should be removable without the use of tools. Removing hardware will expose sharp edges, destabilize the equipment, and the hardware will itself become a choking or laceration hazard. Any hardware on the surface of the equipment also needs to be smooth in order to prevent lacerations and entanglement. You need to close all hooks on the playground for the same reason.
The durability of the hardware is an important aspect of playground safety as well. The structures themselves might be durable but will become unsafe if the pieces holding them together are not. Hardware should be corrosion resistant, which will also help protect the equipment it is attached to. Self-lubricating hardware is also a good option for the playground; this will make replacing and repairing play structures much easier in the future and prevent rust.
A lot of playground equipment can be metal, and many older sets incorporate a lot of it. However, metal sets pose several hazards that need to be considered. Platforms, slides, and steps are high-contact areas that children have high levels of exposure to. If these components are metal, they will heat up in the sun, turning them into a burn hazard. If a playground uses metal equipment, it should be oriented so that it is not constantly in direct sunlight. Materials are important to consider when designing the layout of a playground. Metals also need to be painted or treated to avoid rusting.
Woods is a great, natural option and tends to make attractive playground sites. There are plenty of woods that can be used, but some will be more practical for use in a playground environment. Woods need to be naturally rot and insect resistant or they need to be treated in order to have those qualities. Insects can eat away at the material, making it less safe for use. Manufacturers cannot use treatments like pesticides and creosote, however, because they pose safety hazards of their own. Creosote, for example, is extremely flammable in addition to posing health risks.
Paints and Finishes
Ensuring that the paints and finishes are themselves safe is a key part of choosing the right playground equipment and the right manufacturer. This is part of the equipment is something that children will come into a lot of contact with. Manufacturers need to make sure that children cannot ingest, absorb, or inhale hazardous chemicals. It is also important to make sure the equipment meets CPSC requirements for lead paint, especially when inspecting or renovating older equipment.
Paints and finishes themselves will begin to degrade over time, leaving dangerous materials exposed. This can both damage the durability of the playground equipment and put new hazards in the way of children. Maintaining the playground and checking all of the finished surfaces is a key part of keeping the playground site safe for use.